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APD Video: ‘Oh, You Surrender, Huh?’

apd lapel video press conf
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This still from a lapel camera video shows APD Officer Ronald Surran standing on a suspect’s head while his hands were behind his back. (Courtesy of APD)

Albuquerque police released videos Thursday that show officers Tasering one man and punching and jumping on the back of another who is screaming “I surrender.”

The second man was being held at gunpoint by another officer, who had a boot on the man’s head.

In the wake of the May 31 incident, officer Connor Rice was charged Thursday with misdemeanor counts of battery and aggravated battery and two other officers remain under investigation.

A criminal summons will be issued to Rice for the charges, which could land him in prison for up to 18 months, Police Chief Ray Schultz said at a news conference Thursday, where he released the videos after public records requests from reporters and a lawsuit from a local television station.

Rice was not arrested, Schultz said, because APD investigators determined a summons was “the best course of action” considering the incident took place more than two months ago.

Rice also still has his job – for now. Schultz said he was moved from desk duty to leave without pay after he was charged criminally on Thursday.

Two other officers involved in the May incident, Shad Solis and Ronald Surran, have not been charged, although Schultz said they both remain on desk duty. Criminal and Internal Affairs investigations continue into the incident, and he did not rule out additional criminal charges.

Rice has been with APD six years, Surran is a 16-year veteran and Solis has been with APD 14 years. None of the three could be reached for comment Thursday.

Tasered 3 times

Under pressure from the news media, Schultz on Thursday released video recordings of the incident taken from the officers’ lapel-mounted cameras.

The videos show Rice and Solis telling a man outside a Northeast Heights apartment building that they want to search his apartment for a man who had fled on foot from an earlier narcotics investigation.

The man asks the officers if they need a warrant to do so, and Rice replies: “No … It’s called a hot pursuit.”

The initial investigation of the suspected narcotics activity at a park in the 7900 block of Marquette NE had ended nearly 20 minutes prior.

Meanwhile, another man walks into the apartment with his dog, closing a metal security door and a wooden door behind him. Rice yells at the man, opens the metal door into the apartment, and Solis, with his gun drawn, kicks open the wooden door.

“Obviously, that’s a violation,” Schultz said of the officers’ entry into the apartment. “You do have to have a warrant to enter.”

As soon as the wooden door flies open, Rice shoots the man inside with his Taser. While the man screams in pain and begs the officer to let him get his dog, which is barking in the background, Rice sends another five-second “cycle” of electronic current into his body.

Meanwhile, Solis leaves the room and discovers that the suspect the two officers had been looking for had fled the apartment on foot. As Solis walks back into the room, he shoots the man Rice had just Tasered with his own stun gun.

Video from about an hour later shows the man who had fled the apartment lying on the ground, his hands behind his back, with APD officer Ronald Surran’s boot pressing his face into the ground. Surran has his gun pointed at the suspect.

Rice enters the picture and jumps onto the suspect, who is screaming: “I surrender.”

“Oh, you surrender, huh?” Rice says, then strikes the suspect three times in the upper torso with either his hand or his fist.

After officers handcuff the man, two officers exchange a high-five, although it is unclear from the video which ones.

Detailing the charges

Connor Rice

The aggravated battery charge is tied to Rice’s Tasering the man in the apartment, Schultz said, and the strikes to the other suspect are the basis for the battery charge.

An aggravated enhancement is added to a battery charge when authorities believe there is intent to injure.

Schultz said Solis hasn’t been charged because he may have been trying to assist or protect Rice. As for kicking in the door, the chief said, state officials can’t charge someone for illegal entry unless a felony is committed inside.

Solis has a recent history of trouble at APD. On May 23, 2011, he received a “permanent demotion” from sergeant to patrolman first class.

The chief has refused to say why Solis was demoted.

Surran hasn’t been charged, Schultz said, because it is yet unclear whether he committed a crime. Criminal investigators from APD’s Special Investigations Division haven’t interviewed Surran yet because he is out of the state on military deployment.

A review of the police reports filed on the incident by Solis, Rice and Surran paints a very different picture than what is shown in the videos. None of their reports mentioned the strikes to the head or the fact that the man had clearly surrendered prior to being struck.

“I am very disappointed and angry in the differences between the reports and the videos,” Schultz told the Journal.

The man who was Tasered was arrested and charged with harboring or aiding a felon. The man who was punched was charged with marijuana possession and conspiracy.

Asked by a reporter during Thursday’s news conference how APD brass became aware of the videos, Schultz cited a public records request from KRQE News 13 reporter Kim Holland.

The chief then criticized Holland and other reporters in the room, saying reporters should call his office if they receive information that APD officers may have committed a crime.

That would be a better course, Schultz said, than “trying to hide behind the open records act … and say: ‘We gotcha.’ ”

Holland defended her request under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, saying she had received a tip about the video, but she didn’t know exactly what it showed.

The IPRA does not require individuals to disclose their reasons for requesting public records.

KRQE last week filed a lawsuit seeking release of the videos.

The Journal also had filed a public records request for the videos on Monday.

APD is facing a possible federal civil rights investigation, in large part because of its use of force. APD officers have shot 25 men since 2010, 17 of them fatally, and officers have made headlines and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in excessive force cases.

Asked Thursday whether the officers’ actions caught on video May 31 were further evidence of a cultural problem within APD, Schultz said: “Obviously, I’m very disappointed in the actions of the officers. We don’t train to this level.”

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

APD Chief: “I am very disappointed and angry”

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